Data as New Media Product
At the advanced edges of this new era, some companies are leveraging data to craft a range of products and services that fundamentally redefine what media is. "Media is losing value," says Vikram Somaya, general manager of WeatherFX, The Weather Channel's new venture. "Media is not a stand-alone currency without the judicious application of data," he says. WeatherFX applies advanced analytics to otherwise commoditized weather data to show where, how, and when weather changes directly impact businesses. For one insurance company, for instance, WeatherFX helped drive localized SMS alerts an hour ahead of hailstorms to advise bringing cars into garages. This was not selling media but applying data to save a company money.
WeatherFX combines its historical weather data and user behaviors with hyperlocal forecasts so that it can anticipate in real time how changes affect consumer buying patterns. Potentially that business intelligence can apply at a checkout counter, as Somaya is building APIs to hook WeatherFX analytics into a retailer's point-of-sale. A customer in a geofenced area could get a highly localized offer based on weather conditions. This highly integrated model also gives back to a content provider actual sales and revenue data from a partner so the media company better understands how its products affect a partner's bottom line. As Somaya contends, this represents a fundamental shift in content business models: "We are transitioning a media business to a media and data solutions business."
As a business information provider to the construction and energy industry, The McGraw-Hill Cos. is leveraging the unstructured data it processes from newsfeeds and social media to craft a lead-generation product for builders. The Dodge service culls data from McGraw-Hill's multiple structured and unstructured content channels to identify projects on which companies can bid. But it also ties those projects to specifications and then to the company's Sweets service, which highlights the goods necessary to complete the projects. "The ability to associate plans and specifications with the actual products being utilized and being specified in those plans is of very high value in that industry," Adriaan Bouten, SVP and CIO of McGraw-Hill Information and Media says in a video interview on the project with its platform provider MarkLogic Corp.
Content companies leveraging data in real time ultimately "is about dynamic custom targeted publishing," says Matt Turner, chief technologist of media solutions at MarkLogic, which works with McGraw-Hill, Elsevier, Factiva, and nearly 120 other media companies on turning content into data products. He describes this next stage of merging Big Data analytics with content as moving from "mass media to mass customization." The genius of Big Data is that it targets individual needs if the technology can support it. For the BBC Sport Olympics coverage, for instance, visitors were not served a series of static pages but rather received dynamically created pages that aggregated around a queried athlete, event, or country all of the relevant and real-time information from a massive database of structured score and performance data as well as unstructured traditional story content. Every viewer's page was unique according to the interest he or she pursued. This data-driven model of one-to-one publishing requires technology that assesses and accesses all inputs and outputs, which is "a complete picture of everything you as a publisher have to offer and everything that is going on. You need to break down that wall to get information from that user," according to Turner.
According to IBM's Steve Canepa, GM of the global media and entertainment industry practice, it is the new era of the connected consumer and that feedback loop that may be most promising for media. In late 2011 and early 2012, IBM analyzed sentiments about upcoming films from more than 5 million social media posts to establish a baseline of attitudes. During the 2012 Super Bowl airing of film trailer ads, IBM analyzed thousands of tweets a second to determine how a trailer affected attitudes. This ability to understand nuanced subsegments of what people thought about a trailer and their intent to see the film changes the media game. Previously, analytics tracked raw transactions, but now the unstructured attitudinal information embedded in social streams and user feedback allow richer profiles that aim to predict intent and future action. "This is a new digital world where notions of segmentation are now behavioral and about how people will behave and how they act with different offers," says Canepa.
Whether a threat or an opportunity, data is destined to inform profoundly all aspects of content creation, distribution, and monetization. Its greatest promise for media is the same as for marketing-to bring makers in closer contact with consumers' wants and needs ... perhaps even before the users actually know what they want and need.
Complex Media, LLC
krux digital, Inc.
Dodge Lead Center/McGraw-Hill
IBM Media and Entertainment
Pivotal Research Group
San Diego Union-Tribune
The Weather Channel, LLC